15 Terrible Things Many People Don’t Realize Are Actually Abuse

Abuse can be anything from using something for a bad purpose to treating a person or animal with violence and cruelty. But many forms often go undetected as such. Here are 15 things that you may not even know are abuse.

1. Reactive Abuse

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Reactive Abuse is the “abuse” you react with when someone abuses you. Abusers will maliciously poke at their victims until they achieve an explosive reaction. Then, the abuser will use their reaction to justify their abuse or further manipulate and gaslight the victim.

2. Stonewalling

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Stonewalling, also known as the “Silent treatment,” is refusing to communicate, intentionally shutting down, and blatantly ignoring and disregarding a person or partner. This behavior can be hurtful and harmful in relationships, leading to reactive abuse.

For example, a stonewalling person can aggravate their partner to the point of yelling for any response. Then, the stonewaller can claim abuse as the response to their own damaging behaviors.

3. Emotional Incest

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Emotional incest, also known as covert incest, happens when a parent or caregiver relies on a child for emotional needs that an adult relationship typically provides. It’s an unhealthy relationship dynamic that creates problems in their other relationships.

For example, a mother who treats their son like a surrogate husband may have difficulty accepting him dating anyone. It may feel like he is “cheating.”

Other examples include siblings who are extremely “overprotective” or fathers who are possessive about their daughter’s virginity. There is no physical abuse with covert incest; it’s strictly emotional abuse.

4. Bullying

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Bullying is when a person seeks to harm another person through hurtful teasing, coercion, and force to dominate and intimidate their victims. While it may seem obvious that this behavior is abuse, many don’t realize what that entails.

For example, I was bullied unmercifully in Junior High, and for months, my father would say things like: “Well, what did you do to upset these girls? You had to have done something?” It’s like his mind could not grasp sometimes people are jerks without reason. Other parents may dismiss their children’s bullying behaviors with statements such as: “Boys will be boys.”

5. Unchecked Sibling Rivalry

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Similarly, unchecked sibling rivalry can translate to actual bullying but is often dismissed in the family unit as “normal.” What’s worse? Sometimes, parents create sibling rivalry by pinning them against each other.

This can come from comments about how one out-performs the other: “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” Some parents even go back and forth between their kids, planting hateful seeds against each other. It’s sick, and it’s abuse.

6. Manipulation Under the Guise of Caring

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Manipulation under the guise of caring, or “Concern trolling,” is abuse many people do not realize. This can manifest in ways like: “Don’t be friends with them. I’m just looking out for you.”

People often say that because they have their own issue with the person or know that person knows the truth about them, and they are trying desperately to ensure that you don’t discover the truth. It’s not because they — care.

7. Neglect

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Neglect is abuse. Say that again. Neglect is abuse! When becoming a parent or entering into a romantic relationship, you have a responsibility to them. If you don’t meet the obligations of the relationship, that is neglect, which translates to abuse.

Neglect by people in parenting or guardian roles is classified as abuse under many modern child protection laws, including medical, emotional, and physical neglect.

8. Tampering With Food

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People who have the audacity to tamper with people’s food are being abusive. For example, sneaking meat into a vegan dish because you think it is funny. Or “testing” someone’s allergies because you don’t believe them (dangerous).

Or sneaking an ingredient into a dish because you want to prove someone wrong about whether or not they like the food. My sister did that with mushrooms and thought she was so funny.

I hate mushrooms and still remember her shock when I started gagging and said: “There is cream of mushroom soup in this!” All she said was: “Darn! You really can tell?” while laughing hysterically. It’s not funny.

9. Continuing Behaviors That Someone Has Repeatedly Asked You to Stop

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It’s abuse when someone asks you to stop doing or saying something to them, but you won’t respect their boundary. Sometimes, people dismiss the abuse as good “old-fashioned teasing” or “flirting.” It’s also a red flag in the initial stages of abusive relationships.

For example, telling someone to stop calling you a nickname you don’t like, but they continue to taunt you with it while laughing. I’d say people scaring you when you’ve explicitly explained how much you detest it is the absolute worst! Unwanted tickling is a close second.

10. Intentionally Driving Recklessly

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Have you ever found yourself in the passenger or back seat of a vehicle being driven by someone who is intentionally reckless? It’s terrifying. This behavior causes needless accidents and unfortunate deaths. For example, going 100 MPH while your passengers scream for you to stop. Or swerving back and forth because you think it’s funny to scare your passengers.

11. Gatekeeping Basic Life Skills

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Gatekeeping basic life skills like not teaching your children about routine hygiene, personal care, cooking, and household chores. This is a common abusive tactic of narcissistic parents. They will use their children’s lack of know-how on something they are responsible for teaching as a means of ridicule.

12. Telling Children How They Should Feel

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Telling a child how they should feel is dismissive of the reality that they are human beings with their own feelings and emotions. It demonstrates that you do not care about their feelings. This abuse may sound like: “You should be grateful,” “You should be sorry,” “You should be happy,” and “You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.”

13. Educational Neglect at Home

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Educational neglect at home is a form of abuse that hinders people in many ways. For example, not teaching any sexual education because abstinence is the only answer. It may sound nice in theory. But it leads to unnecessary shame, self-loathing, pregnancy, and disease. Or not allowing your children to learn about evolution or dinosaurs.

14. Negative Internal Narrative

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Self-abuse is something so many people are guilty of without realizing that it is abuse. It involves belittling and putting yourself down inside your own mind. Telling yourself that you are stupid, unworthy, or not good enough.

The only way to escape self-abuse is to learn how not to do it. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) practices are a good start. “Be careful what you say to yourself; you’re listening.”

15. Altruistic Narcissism

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Altruistic Narcissists see themselves as supreme caregivers. These people go out of their way to be readily available and overly helpful. However, the intent is not genuine care and concern.

Moreover, it’s a manipulative act to ensure everyone around them sees them as a “savior” or in a good light. Of course, they immediately weaponize their “kind acts” against you when you have any issue with them. “I’ve done so much for you. How could you!! You should be grateful!” Or, “After all I’ve done for you, and this is how you treat me?”

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Elizabeth Ervin is the owner of Sober Healing. She is a freelance writer passionate about opioid recovery and has celebrated breaking free since 09-27-2013. She advocates for mental health awareness and encourages others to embrace healing, recovery, and Jesus.